I always thought I’d be a nurse or a pediatrician. I babysat and enjoyed taking care of kids—I wanted to make a difference in their lives, if only for the short time I was with them. In the early years of high school, I was a volunteer at a nearby hospital. I realized pretty quickly that I hated seeing sick kids. I would cry in the bathroom after leaving a patient’s room because I worried about the child and his or her family. It was hard to feel like I could make a difference in their lives when I was so overcome by what they were facing.Since I still loved kids, but didn’t like seeing them sick, I started considering teaching. My mom was in my school for a good number of years growing up, but she was mostly a librarian. One thing I didn’t like was the “special treatment” that peers thought I received for being a teacher’s kid. Friends thought good grades came from my mom having an “in.” The feeling of being busted or watched from afar by mom in the hallways was another strike against teaching.
When weighing out the pros and cons in a high-school-aged brain, I liked the idea of being able to be off for holidays and summer break. I loved so many of my teachers and looked up to them. They made a difference in my life. I wanted to be the teacher a student would someday remember as his favorite in the same way I was thinking about several of mine. One of those teachers was Mrs. Z—I wanted to be able to laugh like her until I was beet red and my cheeks hurt. I wanted to make learning fun and exciting like she did in second grade. I admired her enthusiasm toward her students and her teaching.
As I’m now approaching twenty years as a teacher, I am thankful for the chance to teach my own three kids for at least one year each and enjoy the summers and days off with them. Yes, they experienced some of the same woes that I did as a student with a mom in the same school, but I don’t think they’d say it ruined their schooling. Have there been some tough years? Absolutely. Have parents and students always had the same excitement or desire to be the best? Not always. Do I wish there were less tests and more time for teaching without the testing pressure? Of course! But through it all, I think of the kids and the impact I’m trying to make in 25 or so lives each year.
I don’t know if mine will ever be the name that students mention as their favorite when they look back on their days as a student in twenty years, but one note last week encouraged me to keep going and striving to make a difference. It read, “You were the best third grade teacher! You inspired me to want to be a teacher!” Maybe that student will change her mind and want to be a pediatrician or nurse, or maybe she’ll end up really becoming a teacher. Whatever the outcome, I hope I made a difference in her life for a moment.
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